By: Anders Nelson
Fire doesn’t mix well with most things, nor does fire do well at listening to those who attempt to control it. It consumes, it harms, it destroys.
Yet Dolly Parton knows what it means to feel fire inside you and relish every moment of it.
For her, fire is not so much a force of destruction but the spark of beauty, the ignition of love, a burning sign of vibrant truth and deep joy. This fire ignites one’s whole being unapologetically for the sake of discovering the deeper truths held deep inside that only this fire can stir up. In a very similar way, the Holy Spirit (in all of her mysterious ways) inspires and ignites us individually and as the whole church to do the work of seeking beauty, love, truth, and joy in ourselves, each other, and our Creator. But despite the hard work of the Spirit, we might find ourselves attempting to put out these fires.
Growing up, wrestling with my queer identity felt like trying to hide a bonfire in the middle of a room full of my family and friends: nobody was willing to call it out and eventually I reached a point where I couldn’t sit there looking at it without saying something. “Hey! Have you all seen this? This is real and this is good. Okay? Okay.”
There’s liberation in seeing those flames as wholly good and not out to burn our lives to the ground. In fact, they might just inspire us towards burning down the things in our lives and our world that need to be burned down. Such discernment and reflection is necessary for the sake of the life of the church alongside the work of queer liberation. And if nothing else, this fire might inspire us to put on some drag, dance in our seminary’s chapel, and truly show the world what it’s all about.
This red hot emotion
Puts fireworks in motion
It looks like the 4th of July
There's no use in fighting
This fire you've ignited
Just stand back and watch the sparks fly
As the season of Pentecost approaches, may the revelatory sparks fly for you as they have for me. May the movement of Deep Wisdom stir up in you some meaningful, revelatory moments. And above all, may the flaming Spirit be with us until we’re all shouting, “Baby, I’m Burnin’!”
Anders Nelson (he/him) is the associate pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Wheaton, Illinois where he’s been serving since the very beginning of the pandemic. He’s subsisted the last year mainly on learning how tasty vegetarian cooking can be, singing hymns and broadway numbers in the shower, and scheduling as many Dungeons and Dragons sessions as possible.